Two former EPA administrators (under Republican Administrations) take a trip down memory lane:
The air across our country is appreciably cleaner and healthier as a result of EPA regulation of trucks, buses, automobiles and large industrial sources of air pollution. There are three times the number of cars on the roads today as in 1970, yet they put out a small fraction of the pollution.
Likewise, American waterways have shown marked improvement. Lakes and rivers across the nation have shifted from being public health threats to being sources of drinking water as well as places for fishing and other forms of recreation. Lake Erie was declared dead in 1970 but today supports a multimillion-dollar fishery.
Amid the virulent attacks on the EPA driven by concern about overregulation, it is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment.
I wonder if Tea Party Republicans would be more receptive if this plea was penned instead by James Watt and Gale Norton.
Climate Change: Examining the processes used to create science and policy
That’s going to be quite a show, given the deliberate bundling of science and policy. Roger Pielke Jr. should be able to feast on this one, while the witness list will provide fodder for one of those head-in-vice posts from this guy…just about any minute.
My view: anything that puts climate change in the busy headlines these days should probably be cheered by those who want to keep the issue alive in the public’s mind.
Long before William Cronon rocked Wisconsin Republicans’ world, he rocked mine when I read his first book, Changes in the Land. It pretty much reoriented my intellectual framework. (Another journalist seems to have had a similar experience.) Here’s the 1984 NYT review of the book that launched Cronon’s career.
But I’m just a piker. There are famous, accomplished others who have been similarly influenced by Cronon’s work.
As for the current political attention he’s receiving from angry Republicans, it’s worth recalling that this isn’t the first time that Cronon has found himself in the crosshairs for something he’s written. As I discussed in a previous post, environmentalists gave him a good working over in the mid-1990s for this provocative essay. He struck a nerve then, and I think he’s right to assume he’s struck another nerve recently–with Wisconsin Republicans.
Most of the commentary in the media (regarding the current controversy) that I’ve read sides with Cronon’s view–that the FOIA request for his university emails is a politically motivated witch hunt. One notable exception is Jack Shafer at Slate, whose headline says it all:
There’s No Such Thing as a Bad FOIA Request
That’s a debate worth having, but with Cronon I see an upside to this ugly episode because as distinguished and well known in academia as he is, Cronon is now being discovered by a wider public. Consider this admission from Salon’s writer:
A week ago, I had never heard of Cronon. This is embarrassing, since it doesn’t take much digging around to discover that he is one of the most highly regarded historians in the United States (not to mention president-elect of the American Historical Association).
A commenter elsewhere also observes:
the [Salon] author, Andrew Leonard mentions that he just purchased two of Cronon’s books; when I checked at Amazon, those two books were ranked something like #45 and #51 “” not bad for history publications!!
So as much as I abhor the the Republican attempt to intimidate a critic, they have introduced a brilliant mind and gifted writer to a broader, worldwide audience. In doing so, they have also shined a spotlight on their own brass knuckle tactics. And before this is all over, they may have even ignited a useful debate on the appropriate use of FOIA.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman in his NYT op-ed column today, writes about “the Cronon affair”and makes a climate connection:
The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.